Marcus Licinius Crassus was a Roman general and politician, and considered to have been the wealthiest man in the Roman Republic, amassing his enormous fortune through real estate speculation. Envied and despised by the highborn among the Senate, he craved the power and respect that defeating Spartacus and his rebel army had brought him. He played a role in the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire.
Crassus was born in 115 BC, the second eldest of two other brothers; Publius and Gaius. Descended from an aristocratic family in Rome, Marcus Licinius Crassus, known as "the richest man in Rome" during his life-time, was partially credited with securing victory for the Republic over the forces of Gaius Marius. Over the forces of Spartacus during the Third Servile War and would later become a founding member, along with Julius Caesar and Pompey Magnus, of the First Triumvirate. In 87 BC, the forces of Gaius Marius seized control of Rome during what became known as The Social War. During this war, the Crassus family had allied themselves with Marius' nemesis, Lucius Cornelius Sulla. Thus, when Marius took control of the city, Crassus' father, a former consul of Rome named Licinius Crassus, took his own life. His head, along with those of many other Roman noblemen who had allied themselves with Sulla were placed atop stakes in the Roman forum. Marius died shortly after taking the city and his second in command, Lucius Cornelius Cinna (Caesar's father-in-law) ascended to power. Cinna placed multiple proscriptions (bounties) on many of the remaining noblemen who had supported Sulla. Crassus found himself among these men and soon thereafter left Rome and fled to Hispania. Crassus lived in hiding in Hispania for nearly a year. He would eventually make his way to Greece where he joined up with Sulla himself who was about to launch an attack on Italy and retake Rome. Sulla was successful in his campaign and eventually captured Rome on November 1st, 82 BC. During this final battle at the gates of Rome, Crassus commanded the right wing of Sulla's army, distinguishing himself greatly. Following the successful completion of the war, Crassus turned his full attention away from the battlefield and onto business. Much of Crassus' wealth was acquired through rather unethical means by proscriptions against political opponents of Sulla's regime. Crassus was said to have added names of citizens to the proscription's lists who were not previously written down. Crassus was also in charge of his own private fire-service (such services existed in the Roman Republic before the formation of the Cohortes Vigiles by Augustus), where Crassus would force the home owner to sell his property at a reduced price, and would order his slaves to cease work on containing the fire until his client complied with his demands. It is believed that Crassus' personal fortune amounted to two hundred million sestertii. Four sestertii amounted to one denarius. A single denarius was considered to be the daily wage of an unskilled Roman laborer or soldier.
Sulla's second civil war
In response to the first threat, Rome's best general, Lucius Licinius Lucullus (consul in 74 BC), was sent to defeat Mithridates, followed shortly by his brother Varro Lucullus (consul in 73 BC). Meanwhile, Pompey was fighting in Hispania against Quintus Sertorius, the last effective Marian general, without notable advantage. Pompey succeeded only when Sertorius was assassinated by one of his own commanders.
Crassus had amassed a fortune of 200,000,000 sesterces, so he was only chosen because he was rich enough to afford an army and their weapons. He had the wealth to afford these necessities. Many lands in southern Italy that had been taken by Marrius' supporters in the Civil War had been given to Crassus and he used them to amass his wealth. They were populated with slaves, and had been attacked by Spartacus and his army. This gave Crassus reputable and financial reasons to defeat Spartacus.
Buying the men, their equipment and all their supplies, Crassus traveled south with his new legions. Crassus was careful to approach Spartacus, so he sent several forces in various directions to keep a look out for the rebels, including his commander Gaius Mummius with around 12,000 men.
Crassus displayed a typical, power hungry, but keen, attitude. Unlike many of Spartacus' enemies; Glaber, Varinius, Cossinius and Clodianus, who all viewed Spartacus as inferior because of his status to them as a slave, Crassus did not underestimate Spartacus. He was more calculative and found admiration and respect for the rebel leader. He had one of most intelligent minds that Spartacus and the rebel army ever faced, and was not fooled at all by any of his tricks. Also unlike the other Roman generals who were tasked to defeat Spartacus, Crassus actually admired the rebel general, especially for his keen intellect, unique strategies, and military tactics, something they both shared.
However he was a professional Roman general and a determined commander, who enforced strict discipline on his army, and during the Third Servile War, used decimation on his own troops. After defeating Spartacus and his army, he chose to crucify the 6000 rebels he had taken prisoner. Even in Roman terms, he was not a pleasant man. Contrary to many other Romans, Crassus also had a profound sense of justice and believed that nobody was above punishment, even his family and friends.
Crassus was eager to achieve the victory over Spartacus himself and avoid sharing anything with his successful rival Pompeius Magnus. While somewhat arrogant, Crassus believed in one earning their title and position. However he was not liked among the senate, and they would have chosen another commander to defeat the rebellion. Only his money was favoured among them and that paid for more men and weapons.
AppearanceMarcus Crassus was middle-aged during the revolt of Spartacus. He wore typical finely-cut Roman robes, fitting for a man of his station. Despite his age he displayed a well toned, muscular build, even until he was of old age.
When deployed in combat, Crassus wore the armor of a Roman officer, and wielded his fathers sword on the field of battle.
As well as a wealthy senator and professional strategist, Crassus was a expert fighter and killed many during his war against Spartacus. Crassus was trained well as a Roman soldier, learning from his experience as a commander of Sulla during his civil war against Marius. He also had an interest in gladiators. He also needed training before fighting Spartacus, not having raised his sword in battle for an entire decade.
As such, he was able easily best countless rebels during the rebellion, and even managed to skillfully hold his own against the rebel leader Spartacus during their many confrontations. He also proved that he could lead an army effectively.
|"There stand no greater bonds between men, then those forged in war"|
|— Crassus to his men during Decimation.|
|"No man can be truly wealthy, until he has purchased an army of his own, and have small sum remain from price"|
|— Crassus to his allies in the senate.|
|"No wounded enemy is to be blessed with merciful passing. I would make example of all slaves who would dare raise hand against the might of Rome."|
|— Crassus to his men before the Battle at the Silarus River|
- Crassus was first portrayed by Carlo Ninchi in the 1953 film Sins of Rome, where he is the one who orders Spartacus' enslavement after the latter had assaulted a superior officer.
- Crassus was portrayed by Laurence Olivier in the 1960 film Spartacus.
- He was later portrayed by Angus Macfadyen in the 2004 miniseries adaption. Unlike the 1960 portrayal.
- He was portrayed by Robert Glenister in the 2008 Docudrama Heroes and Villains: Spartacus.
- In the stars original series, he is a mentioned character in the first two seasons and makes his first appearance in the third and final season, War of the Damned, portrayed by Simon Merrels.